Passion for Protecting Puget's Paradise
June 02, 2004
By Mary Getchell
Every day thousands of people are making an enormous difference
to protect and restore the environment of Puget Sound. Silently,
modestly and with great effect, these citizens take hands-on actions
to make the Sound a better place for salmon, orcas and thousands
of other fish, animals and birds that find their home in the Sound,
as well as the millions of people who enjoy its beauty and recreational
and commercial resources. This dedication and commitment by all local
heroes is essential to help save the Sound for today and future generations.
Meet Annie Roberts, a single mother of twin 12-year old daughters.
They live on beautiful, serene and picturesque Maury Island. Fifteen
years ago, Roberts and her now ex-husband purchased 2 acres on Maury
Island and built a home. Then, in 1997, Roberts bought the rights
to Raab's Lagoon, an estuary with approximately 10 acres of water,
which is adjacent to her property.
"I bought the lagoon hoping to save it and the shorelines around
it," said Roberts. "It had been owned by a land development
company that kept threatening to develop the lagoon." Roberts
hopes to protect the buffer zone around the lagoon from further development
and return it to its natural state. Some 11 homes, all requiring
septic systems, have been built on properties along the lagoon, and
a few more are in the planning stages. "Raab's Lagoon is not
only my neighbors' and my front yard, it is a part of Puget Sound," said
Roberts. "It is home to salmon, beaver and otter families, oysters,
sand dollars, starfish, blue herons and a multitude of extraordinary
wildlife. I feel obligated, as well as lucky, to be able to help
protect their home." Roberts calls protecting the lagoon and
its shoreline a work in progress to conserve the area for wildlife.
King County's Sensitive Areas Ordinance sets natural vegetative
buffer distances at 100 feet back from the ordinary high water mark
for areas such as Raab's Lagoon. "Unfortunately, through the
years some owners of property at the lagoon's edge have cleared,
mowed and even used pesticides and chemicals inside the buffer zone," said
Roberts. "I'm one of the few property owners who is not disturbing
the lagoon in some way."
About two years ago, Roberts stepped up her efforts to protect the
estuary. She attended a Puget Sound Action Team and Washington State
University Extension Conservation Tools workshop to learn more about
ways to protect shorelines. With help from people from the WSU Extension
and King County, she applied for Public Benefit Rating System (PBRS)
status for Raab's Lagoon and her lower acre that abuts it. King County
enrolled the property into the PBRS last year.
The Public Benefit Rating System and related Timber Land and Agricultural
Land programs provide incentives to encourage private landowners
to voluntarily conserve and protect natural resources, open space,
timber and working farms. Landowners can reduce property taxes on
the portion of their land participating in these programs.
Roberts and her daughters, friends, neighbors, islanders and boaters
enjoy Raab's Lagoon. They swim, kayak, bird watch and treasure the
quiet of nature in its waters. She is committed to returning the
area to a better, less disturbed, more natural habitat. Roberts expects
the lagoon to silt in naturally and return to tide flats over time
unless the berm at the harbor's edge is maintained. Even though Roberts
realizes the swimming and boating benefits of the lagoon will be
lost, she is committed to permanently conserve the lower acre of
her property and much of the lagoon.
"I do not want this home to salmon, otters and all of the wildlife
to be developed or its health compromised," said Roberts. "We
all have a responsibility to the creatures in these areas, and can
affect their well-being in things as simple as the laundry soap we
choose and what we put on our lawns and in our gardens."
Through the years Roberts has talked with her neighbors about protecting
the wetlands. She hopes to work with them further and offer some
classes to help them restore the wetlands.
The estuary is critical to the life stages of salmon as they move from freshwater
to saltwater and back to freshwater. The estuary is key to providing food and
shelter for salmon, where outgoing fry spend time to get acclimated to saltwater.
The good news is that Roberts has observed more salmon coming back
to the area in recent years. Last year, salmon littered the beach
at the mouth of Raab's Lagoon and she saw many swimming toward the
stream that feeds it.
"Roberts is a true example that the choices we make today will
determine whether our children and grandchildren will live in a world
with salmon," said Jim Kramer, executive director for Shared
Strategy for Puget Sound. "We need more people like Roberts
who steward and protect habitats in their own backyards or neighborhoods."
Kramer said that salmon also need people such as Roberts to engage
with their local decision-makers and communities in support of broader
salmon recovery efforts. He stressed that while progress is being
made, more needs to be done to protect and restore salmon runs across
Puget Sound. Kramer said we need more local heroes to help Roberts
save salmon and the Sound.
The Shared Strategy for Puget Sound is a collaborative effort of
public and private individuals and organizations dedicated to protecting
and restoring salmon runs across Puget Sound. "I think we'll
see more salmon and more people sensitive to the needs of salmon
and all of the wildlife on Vashon and in the Sound,'" said Roberts. "I
have a glorious front yard and I'm committed to making it an even
more beautiful, better and safer home for fish and wildlife."
Mary Getchell is a communications manager for the Puget Sound
Action Team, which is associated with the Office of the Governor.
Getchell met Roberts at a workshop sponsored by the PSAT.